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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Steven Den Beste on the possibility of Canada going tits-up. His correspondent advances the possibility of Canadian provinces applying for admission as States to the U.S.; Steven dumps cold water on the idea.

I don't think the objection he raises has as much weight as he gives it. Certainly his survey of past U.S. practice misses some important details. Historically, there have been four hurdles for admission: a sufficient population such that equal representation in the Senate doesn't produce a totally ludicrous result (which held up statehood for a lot of newly acquired but mostly empty territory), a local government as a going concern (which held up statehood for a lot of Western states), an existing local legal framework the U.S. can get along with (which held up statehood for Utah), and a sufficient indication of attachment to the United States (which is holding things up for Puerto Rico). And the U.S. has been known also to abandon the sobriety Steven describes, when certain intoxicating possibilities presented themselves (California).

The first point would scotch the idea of statehood for those provinces with populations in the mere tens of thousands. The third and fourth points dispose of Quebec. Other than that, though, and provided that Ottawa wouldn't want to dispute the matter, I don't see any significant impediments -- at least, not on the Canadian side of the border. The remaining provinces already have sufficient population, existing governments, and legal systems arising from the same common-law tradition. I would expect, actually, that such objections as would really control the matter, whether they were voiced or not, would arise from the nature and structure of things in D.C, and would be the same no matter whom the applicant, nor how well established his bona fides: How many more warm bodies can be seated comfortably in the Senate chamber? How many States would lose members in the House, if it were not expanded? and which States? (California would certainly bitch a blue streak.) How many more Representatives must be added, so that no existing States would lose members, and what would that do to a single member's clout? Would we have to expand the Capitol building? Would the mere proposal to do so touch off a massive historic-preservation sobfest? Who's going to lose a plum seating assignment, or choice office space, to make way for the new members? And just how would we fit those new stars onto the flag?

-- posted by Clayton 6/11/2003 03:47:00 AM

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